Eastern Sierra Fishing Report

Madison Kelly is back on the report showing off a great rainbow she caught on her first float with Doug Dolan. WooHoo Maddy!
Photo Credit: Doug Dolan

by Tom Loe

We can call this the “fire & Ice report”. A tale of two rivers. The MO had the fire, the UO has the ice! A fresh blanket of snow on the Sierra Crest will great you in the Owens Valley, making for some spectacular backdrops as you fish the year around waters. Prior to the fire the bite was just so-so in the WT section. This trend is continuing. A string of winter type storms ripped through the area with associated winds. I suspect the bite will pick up as the weather lays down and becomes more seasonal. Flows remain very low (75cfs), so wading is easy immediately the below the dam at PVR. The blue winged olive mayfly hatch is the one to hit. Some large drakes popping on the warmer days also. It begins most days around 1pm, & lasts until 2:30. Our drift boat runs were not affected by the fire, and are fishing well. Good numbers of planted rainbows and browns are smacking streamers; with some trophy rainbows getting landed most floats. No snow, or significant mud along the access roads from the last storm. Look for some major flow increases this month. Crowley is nearing capacity, & the last storm added a good amount of water to the snowpack equation. In the event you did not get the news…The fire that wasted the Middle Owens around the wild trout section is now just a bad memory. Lots of scorched earth, and burned willow skeletons. It started in the Pleasant Valley Campground, burning along the river close to Five Bridges Crossing. The section of the MO below the dam, down to the campground did not burn. All areas are now open to the public.

The Upper Owens River remains slow. There are a few nice fish holding in the deeper pools; however numbers are declining. Flows remain on the high side, & you will see some turbidity, & dirty water as the snow melts along the banks, and at the headwaters near Big Springs. This area got about a foot of snow from the last storm; with some snow drifts shutting down the larger rutted roads with two foot of snow.  The access roads are all wheel drive only, & a mess. Anticipate very cold morning air temps for a spell. Hopefully we will see an early run of cutthroat trout later this month.

The East Walker River is trending upward in flows, and we expect this to continue as March rolls on and water demands increase from the agricultural entities. They are currently y 80cfs. The “catching” is on the slow side.  You will see some ice, and moderate snow accumulations in the canyon.

Hot Creek has the usual winter time aquatic weed issues. Water levels are moving up due to some snow melt. There are good numbers of smaller fish concentrated just below the hatchery, & in the deeper pockets and slots in the canyon.  Moderate snow accumulations here might make felt soled wading boots like ice skates!

Pleasant Valley Reservoir has been good in the transition area near the inlet. The lake level has really dropped making access fine. Watch the mud near the lake after it thaws, it can be nasty! Power generation has not been occurring; so the river has been very easy to wade.  “Freeze tubing” has been good for those hearty fly fishers willing to kick around from the launch ramp to the inlet using full sinks, & streamer patterns. The small river section down from the powerhouse is good for wading, & casting dry/dropper bead head rigs.

Gorge water releases are very low. LADWP is doing major maintenance on the hydro electric generation facility. Fish jammed into the deeper pools.

Middle Owens River 

Water conditions are good; with flows below 80cfs. The blue winged olive mayfly hatch has been consistent. We are also observing some large brown drake mayflies coming off on the warmer days. The stone fly emergence is also just another five degrees of water temp away. Golden stones are like filet mignon to the trout! The BWO hatch begins most days around 12:30, and lasts for about ninety minutes. Use Assassins, flashback pheasant tails (large ones for the drakes), hares ear, or small punk perch patterns for nymphing. Midge activity will really accelerate as high pressure sets in. It is wise to have smaller larva and pupa patterns this time of year if the barometric pressure rises. The bite has not been great in the WT area recently; but that could be related to the crappy weather, and windy days attributed to the string of storms. “In like a lion, out like a lamb!” so it is said about March. Crystal tiger, and olive zebra midges, small gillies, crystal midge emergers, and pupa patterns #20/22 will get you grabs in the deeper pools while fishing properly weighted, tandem rigs fished below an Under-Cator. Adult blue winged olives in #16 & 18, para midge adults, & Stimulators when the stone flies pop. Drift boat trips have been consistently fun; with good numbers of planted rainbows and browns showing each trip. A few large rainbows are also smashing our streamers most days. The sections we float are well downstream from the fire, and I am happy to report that water clarity remains normal; with no ash concentrations I have observed. We are primarily pulling streamers using the “dip & strip” method with sinking tip lines. There are opportunities to dry fly fish during the BWO hatch some days, & the fish are focusing on this emergence. Spruce-A-Bu’s, Loebergs, & smaller Punk Perch patterns have all been fooling the trout. Get your licks in soon here friends, flows will be moving upward making conditions tough. Crowley is near capacity, and with the additional water from snowmelt, the LADWP will need to lower CL to accommodate the run-off.

   Upper Owens River 

Not enough snow for our snowmobiles, & too much to drive around! The access roads are a mess after a foot of snow covered the Long Valley floor. Watch those two tracks even if you have an all wheel drive. Some of the drifts are tank traps with two feet of snow in the deeper ruts.The mud is nasty after the ground thaws. Numbers of Crowley Steelhead have declined recently, & your quest for bigs will be tough. The snow is melting along the banks, & in the Big Springs drainage (which are the headwaters of the UO), making the river dirty and off color. Flows are on the high side to begin with as the LADWP continues to lower Grant Lake. Some smaller resident fish are sipping on midge clusters in the pillow water of the larger pools during periods of warmer weather.  Getting your rigs on the bottom with water conditions like this require obscene amounts of weight, lengthy leaders, and aggressive mending tactics to achieve drag free drifts. Crystal Eggs, San Juan Worms, #16-18 Assassins (dark and light), #14-16 Crystal Leeches, and #16-20 Copper Tiger Midge, Zebra Midge, and Gillies have been good patterns fished with plenty of weight below an Under-Cator.  

Hopefully we will see an early run of cutthroat trout moving in March if the weather turns more seasonal.

Hot Creek 

Significant snow accumulations in the canyon. Be extra careful hiking on the ice/snow in felt soled wading boots. Numbers are decent here during warmer periods; with fish holding in the deeper slots and pools.  The stream bed is blanked by thick aquatic weeds. This is normal for the lower water periods of the year.  Best bite occurs during early afternoon when the BWO’s are emerging. Large midge hatches coming off during a high barometer. Dry dropper rigs with a #16-18  Para Hi-Vis BWO and a #22 Gillie dropper 12″-18″ below is a consistent rig currently. When you observe those noses sipping the adults in the suds, remove the dropper, and dope up those high wings so they ride high on the surface.  Longer leaders, & light tippet in the 5-6x class is best. During off hatch periods try attractor patterns fished without an indicator. You can get into some of the larger fish using this method during the winter months.

Pleasant Valley Reservoir 

The lake and powerhouse were not impacted by the fire. Water levels have come down to very low levels around the inlet/transition section. The mud along the river bank is extremely nasty when it thaws. It can be frozen on the surface; but will not support you when you walk on it during the mornings. Dry/dropper rigs are the hot ticket for trout sipping on midges, & mayflies in the transition section.  Still water addicts can get their fix here all winter. This fishery is planted all winter, & can provide some excellent fly fishing opportunities from a float tube; or near the inlet section that feeds the reservoir proper. Full sinking lines fished along the steep shoreline drop-offs using patterns like Loebergs, Crystal Leeches, Parallel Punk Perch, Parallel Agent Orange, & Spruce-A-Bu’s are good calls for “freeze tubers” during the winter. Locals call PVR “little Crowley” as fly fishers in the know will use still water nymphing techniques to score big numbers during periods of stable water levels. Set your “Under-Cators” to suspend those broken back midges, crystal tiger/zebra midges, gillies, & Assassins around the 12-14 foot depth. The inlet section is historically the most consistent section to fish. This diverse fishery also allows you to move into the short river section that feeds the lake. Looking much like the East Walker, this short; but sweet section has plenty of pocket water and riffles that hold holdover rainbows and browns that move into the heavy brush during periods of lower flows. Dry/dropper rigs using para hi-vis BWO’s, Stimulators, and hi-vis caddis patterns as your upper; with crystal tiger midges, crystal olive caddis larva, & parallel; or standard assassins as a nymph. The transition area that dumps into the lake has slower moving/deeper water that requires the use of an Under-Cator, or longer dropper off your dry. This is perhaps the most fertile area of the lake, & competent roll casters may get huge days here while making extended drifts in the foam lines. The trout will concentrate here to feed on the abundant chironomid, & mayflies that come off throughout the cooler months. Keep this fishery in mind if the weather gets nasty in the higher elevations.

 The Gorge 

Fishing has been slow here due to very low flows. The fire did not impact this area. The best bite occurs during the BWO hatch mid-day. Use lighter weight rods here with a mayfly adult or go with a dry/dropper combination. Our Parachute hi-vis BWO is an excellent pattern as your dry. FB PT’s, Assassins, & small midge emergers are good calls for the dropper nymph. 

Season open year around

 East Walker River 

Good to see that flows are now trending upward and running at 80cfs. We expect this increase to continue as agricultural demands increase this month. Snow present along the river. The bite has been slow here; but the bump up in flows, and warmer weather will get the fish on the chew later this month.

If you would like to go fly fishing with Sierra Drifters give them a call at (760) 935 4250 and for more information visit their website www.sierradriters.com.

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More Reports

Sierra Drifters Reports
for Wednesday, March 7th, 2018
Owens River - Middle: Middle Owens River Fishing Report
Owens River - Section 3 - Upper (above Crowley): Upper Owens River Fish Report
Hot Creek: Hot Creek Fishing Report
Pleasant Valley Reservoir: Pleasant Valley Reservoir Fishing Report
Owens River - Gorge: The Gorge Fishing Report
Walker River - East Fork (CA): East Walker River Fishing Report

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